Journalists running afoul of the real-or-imagined business interests of their bosses is nothing new.
As a technology columnist for The Birmingham News and Newhouse Newspapers in the 1990s, I remember being told I couldn’t mention AT&T’s debut of its online, searchable Yellow Pages because they competed for ads with the newspaper. (Seems quaint now, doesn’t it?)
The latest example of journalists not thinking of business interests came at the Consumer Electronics Show, after CNET sent a tweet naming Dish Network’s “Hopper with Sling” product was among its finalists for a “Best of CES” award.
As Buzzfeed explains, there’s a problem: CBS owns CNET, and CBS hates “Hopper” because the new digital video recorder makes it easy for viewers to blow, or at least hop, past commercials. CBS hates it so much that it and Fox have sued Dish, because (as Fox says) the Hopper has “the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem.”
CBS executives made sure the product didn’t make the CNET’s final Best of CES list, which concluded with with this caveat:
The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.
Ultimately, this seems to be a case of journalists not knowing that — whether they like it or not — their top loyalty was not allowed to be with readers.
Jan. 14, 2013: An update: Greg Sandoval of CNET has quit over CBS’ interference, saying that journalists “are supposed to be truth tellers.”